A Nation of Sociopaths? What the Trump Phenomenon Says About America

To ask if the rogue Republican’s surge is good for Democrats is the wrong question.

↑ “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?

To ask if the rogue Republican’s surge is good for Democrats is the wrong question.

The Republican Party has a Donald Trump problem—and that has some Democrats thanking Lady Luck for apparently blowing on their dice. The casino mogul, after all, has thrown the GOP into a disarray even greater than that wrought by the Koch brothers and the Tea Party, dashing the hopes of Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, to launch a nominee who could reach out to racial and ethnic minorities, or one who at least would not say terrible things about women.

With his continued antagonism of Spanish-speakers, his incendiary denouncement of the Black Lives Matter movement, and his base comments about actor Rosie O’Donnell and Fox News host Megyn Kelly, as Trump continues to surge in polls of Republican primary voters, he threatens to lay Priebus’s plans to waste.

This is no way to win a general election, the thinking goes. And so in some corners of Democratland, there is happy dancing in the streets.

Trump offers other benefits, as well, to liberals and progressives in the form of the monkey wrench he could throw into the works of Charles and David Koch, who have been positioning their organizational network as the party within the party, replete with resources for candidates who would run on their platform of smashing unions and coddling private capital. Among these resources is a voter data system said to be superior to that of the RNC.

Part of the Koch network of political and policy organizations and entities, the i360 data system is made available to Republican candidates; they in turn use the data collected to construct their campaigns. But then the data stays within the Koch network, allowing the billionaire brothers and their confrères to act as kingmakers within the party at a level beyond the ad-buy and ground-soldier support bestowed by the network’s other entities, such as Americans for Prosperity.

The Trump campaign, through the candidate’s support for socialized medicine and raising taxes on the wealthy, as well as his opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, constitutes a major nose-thumbing at the Kochs. By staying in the race, he denies them the level of control over the 2016 presidential campaign that they surely expected to have.

Beyond the question, though, of whether Trump is good for Democrats lies the question of whether his candidacy is good for America. Some have implied that the response to Trump on the stump—the smoking out of nativists, racists, and misogynists, bringing them to the surface—is indeed a good thing, because it reveals, in no uncertain terms, to whom the Republican Party most appeals. Heck, even avowed white supremacists—not a constituency prone to endorsing candidates of either major party—are professing their love for The Donald.

If I had faith that America would look at those smoked-out varmints in horror, and resolve as a nation to ostracize all who professed such views—and, better yet, enact policies to rectify the vestiges of past oppression and discrimination in our present society—I might be able to buy the “Trump is good for America” argument. But, alas, I am not familiar with an America whose people, as a whole, are willing to do that.

Instead, what Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.

For all the ink I’ve just spilled on these two questions, neither is the most important one that should be asked about the Trump candidacy. That would be this one: What is wrong with America that this racist, misogynist, money-cheating clown should be the frontrunner for the presidential nomination of one of its two major parties?

Donald Trump is a rich man despite having driven several businesses into the ground, resurrecting himself through the bankruptcy process—meaning that he essentially cheated his creditors out of what they were owed. According to CNN, “no major U.S. company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump’s casino empire in the last 30 years.”

In giving Trump, star of The Apprentice—a reality show in which he played an abusive boss whom the audience apparently loves for his frequent utterance of the words, “You’re fired!”—an even greater platform as a potential occupant of the White House, America enables a vicious swindler, holding him up as a figure to emulate.

He’s a boon to the ratings of news programs, both on the networks and on cable channels. It’s not just the wing-nuts who are watching. America just can’t get enough of this guy!

It’s time to put down the mesmerizing kaleidoscope of the Trump media spectacle, and examine the Trump phenomenon through a more penetrating lens. Revealed is America as a deeply troubled, even sociopathic, nation.

But, damn, it’s one heck of a show.

Adele M. Stan’s article first appeared in American Prospect.

By Adele M. Stan

Adele M. Stan is a columnist at The American Prospect, and editor of Clarion, the newspaper of Professional Staff Congress, a New York City labor union.